What is Golden Hour Photography? | What to Expect at a Golden Hour Session

You’ve probably heard this term if you have chatted with a photographer but you are probably wondering what it is and why all the hype?!

Golden hour is the most beautiful time of day for gorgeous, soft, warm light. It is the optimal time for taking photos. Photographers favor this window of time for the naturally beautiful light.

Golden Hour happens when the sun is closest to the horizon, making prime golden hour about 1 hour after the sun rises or 1 hour before the sun sets. During this time the light is soft, directional and golden, hence the name “golden hour.” Depending on the location, this window of time can vary.

Here are some examples of the gorgeous looks you can achieve with this beautiful light.

Interested in a Golden Hour session for your family? Here is what you need to know about golden hour photo sessions.

If you gravitate towards those warm, dreamy, golden hour portraits, a golden hour session will be perfect for you and your family. However, there are a few things you should know about having your photos taken at golden hour.

Golden Hour is NOT guaranteed.

In order to achieve those magical golden hour photos, you need to have sun! Unfortunately, this isn’t always guaranteed — especially for those of us in Pittsburgh. The sun can be very unpredictable!

If you really want to embrace golden hour, talk with your photographer about flexible scheduling.

When possible, I like to offer my clients a window for their session if they have a preference for golden hour. We will tentatively schedule a date and when the session date gets closer, and the weather is available, we will pick the day that has the greatest probability for beautiful sun. This isn’t always possible but we can try if it works for everyone.

If we don’t have sun – we will still create gorgeous photos – so it’s really a win either way!

Backlighting is not great for direct to camera portraits.

The beauty of golden hour is using the light to compliment moments that are happening. Backlight pairs well with motion and interactions between you and your family.

Backlighting is not, however, ideal for direct-to-camera portraits, with everyone looking and smiling at the camera. With the light to the back of the subject, some clarity will be lost. Take this opportunity to follow the lead of your photographer and embrace moments with your family. Focus on enjoying your family.

Golden hour light varies – every session will be unique!

Just like a sunrise or sunset, the dynamics of lighting will vary every day. This means that every golden hour session will be unique. It’s easy to fall in love with the look and style from another photography session but just know that your session will be unique.

Enjoy your session and if you are lucky enough to have beautiful light, know that your session will likely be unique for your family!

Do not be late for a golden hour session! You could miss the light!

The sun does not wait for anyone. If you are scheduled for a session with the goal to take advantage of the beautiful light – do not be late!! Depending on the location and the surroundings, the light may dip below the tree lines or structures earlier than you expected.

Your photographer will advise you on the best time for photos during this time but make sure to be on time so maximize your session.

Embrace golden hour by adding flowy items and accessories.

Golden hour gives amazing directional light that can really accentuate silhouettes. Embrace the lighting by adding some beautiful flowing dresses or skirts as well as accessories. Hats work well for everyone!

How to pick the perfect photographer for a golden hour shoot.

Golden hour is the popular favorite for many photographers but every photographer has their own style. If you are looking for the perfect photographer for your family – you can get a good idea on their style by looking at their portfolio. Check out this article here on How to Choose the Perfect Family Photographer

What to expect at a golden hour session with Danielle Blewitt Photography:

Many photographers will utilize the light differently as the session moves. I like to dedicate the first half of the session getting some amazing portraits using shaded or soft light. This allows the opportunity to get those first few money shots with everyone looking and smiling along and then move into the more candid shots. I also make it a point to get separate portraits of the various pairing (siblings, kids alone, mom and dad…etc.)

As we move into more optimal light, this is when I will encourage my families to interact more and we will incorporate more motion (walking, swinging, etc). I love to encourage interactions during the full shoot but most of all when we are using this gorgeous light. Embrace the moments and focus on your family!

Want to learn how to shoot at golden hour?

I’ve created a more in depth post dedicated to teaching photographers how to embrace golden hour. You can check it out here: Ultimate Guide to Golden Hour: Part I – Shooting

I hope you enjoyed learning about golden hour and how to embrace this beautiful light for your next family photo session. If you are interested in booking a session or have questions, please contact me!



Looking to make the most of your photography session? Visit these other helpful links:

How to Choose the Perfect Family Photographer

Love Your Family Photo Session with These Simple Tips

Choosing the Perfect Outfits for Family Photos

Life moves too fast. Although we can’t slow it down, we can record the moments that fill our hearts and tell our story through photos and films. I am a Pittsburgh family photographer and film maker that helps families record their stories and pause some of life’s greatest moments.

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about Danielle Blewitt

Life Moves Too Fast!

Hi, I’m Danielle. I’m a Pittsburgh Family + Newborn photographer. As a mom of two, I know how fleeting the early years are. Since we can’t slow down time, we can record the moments that mean so much. I help Pittsburgh families hit pause by recording these memories in photographs and films and I would love to work with you. Let’s see what we can create!

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